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The Place: Japan
The Poison: Japanese rice wine is fermented and brewed at cold temperatures with traditional tools, such as the bamboo poles used for mixing the rice with yeast and water. Most fine sake is drunk cold, and its nature can range from very dry to surprisingly floral. But it almost always disguises its kick—until you suddenly find yourself devouring raw sea urchin roe (and liking it).
The Buzz: What better excuse to escape Tokyo's city madness than a day trip to the nature-filled region of Ibaraki (pictured), rimmed with wooded mountains and bisected by the Shiroishi River. Sudo Honke, the oldest sake brewery in all of Japan, can be found in a rural area of the city of Kasama, only an hour from Tokyo by bullet train. The "brewery in the grove" claims to have been brewing rice wine for 55 generations, ever since the days when the Japanese economy settled on rice as currency.
Down the Hatch: Sudo Honke offers tours and tastings, and the other guests will invariably be all Japanese. We suggest smiling and nodding frequently—and tasting even more frequently.
Sleep It Off: After learning about the centuries of care and connoisseurship that go into creating the world's finest sakes, you might want a more traditional place to rest your head than a neon-streaked skyscraper. At the Ginza Yoshimizu ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn at Tokyo's center, you remove your shoes at the door, rooms are divided by paper screens, the floors are spread with tatami mats, and you'll sleep on a rolled-out futon. The food is all organic, as well—the traditionalists at Sudo Honke would approve.
Drink at Home: Sato No Homare Junmai Ginjo-shu, Sudo Honke's top-shelf offering ($40).
Tel: 81 296 77 015
Tel: 81 3 3248 4432
Doubles $232 per night